Interview by Glenn Sakamoto / Photography by Kevin Jansen
Travis Reynolds is a surfer/shaper based in Santa Cruz, California. A child of artistic parents, Travis spent part of his youth surfing the South Shores of Oahu Hawaii, notably Ala Moana Bowls while living on his father's sailboat. Travis was later introduced to shaping by renowned shaper Michel Junod by first becoming a member of his surf team. A true artist at heart, he specializes in building his hand-crafted custom surfboards from start to finish – from shaping to glassing. We spoke with him to learn more.
What was your childhood like?
My childhood started out in Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz. When I was ten, my dad moved to Oahu where he lived on a sailboat in the Ala Wai harbor and rented a little studio/pool house up in Hauula, in the country. From that point on whenever school was in session, I was in Santa Cruz and whenever school was out I was at my pop’s, surfing the South Shore and enjoying boat and country living. I was so lucky to experience such beautiful and culture-rich places at a young age. At the time I don’t think I really knew how good I had it.
When did you get your first surfboard?
The first board I remember getting was a 9 foot longboard my dad had made. He glassed that thing overnight and sanded it in the parking lot of his work in Seal Beach while I slept in his van. I remember that board had tons of laminants all over it. We ended up calling it the Killer Shake board because it had the logos of my uncle’s business with the same name. It also said 100% Natural, 100% Gnarly on it. What a classic board. That thing came into my life when I was about 9 years old. Before that board I was just a shore pound boogie board gremlin.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
My first real memory of actually standing up and riding a wave was in Santa Cruz at Cowells. It is such a good beginner spot! I got pushed into a knee high screamer, did like a five point get up and locked in for about 100 yards. I was hooked. After that, my buddy and I found a little spot walking distance from our house and were on it every day. That was all we wanted to do. We were such groms… we could barely carry our own board so one of us would get the nose end of the boards and the other would pick up the tails and we would hoof it down to 36th Ave and be in the water for hours.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a child?
I was so lucky to be surrounded by such great people when I was younger. There was my close crew: Johnny Meeks, Ryan Augenstien, Cameron Lacki, and Chris Curtis. And then there was the guys who were a little older: Jay Moriarity, Matt Tanner, and Jed Noll. And the even older guys: Kevin Miske and Michel Junod. All of whom are great humans/surfers/style masters in their own right. Somehow me being surrounded by these characters, I luckily managed to stay out of too much trouble, as trouble was easy to find around Pleasure Point back then.
Who/What inspired you to begin shaping?
When I was about 15, Michel Junod brought me onto his surf team. He was so generous. There always seemed to be this open door policy in his shop so I would check in on my boards as they were getting built. I loved to see the process. The lifestyle always seemed nice as well. Surf when the waves are good and work when they are not. I’ve now learned that it actually takes a ton of hard work, much more time and dedication to be a successful board builder.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
I have appreciation and respect for all the different places I have traveled to: Mexico, Central America, and Canada. If I had to choose one, I think it would be Australia. It is such a beautiful and unique place. The people, the beaches and waves, and the pies. It’s so big and there is much to see. I love how Australians take pride in all the things they make and how they strive to produce as much as they can locally, all while trying to minimize global importation. Just talking about it makes me want to go back – it’s been too long. I have made great friendships there that I’ll always cherish. One of my favorite places in Australia is Byron. I love the foothills around there. It’s such a magical spot.
Who/what inspires you?
Creative humans. I love seeing people getting out of there comfort zones and trying new things. I tend to get burnt out on the mass-produced cookie-cutter-follow-the-leader syndrome that’s going on wherever you look. I get so stoked when I see the next generation youth building things, getting weird, and just trying to piece it all together with their own personal flair.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
I have found if you keep things simple, life seems to go a lot smoother – in all aspects.
Do you have any regrets or wish you had done something differently?
I feel like I am in such a great place in my life right now. I try not to focus on regrets, but rather learn from life’s challenges and move forward. Although, I will say that it would have been nice to have been learned more about computers at a younger age. But I guess I’m getting by... slowly.
What are you most proud of?
I’m so proud of the people in my life, my family & friends, who I admire, because they have taken a risk to chase their dreams, to take a different path than the norm, and just see how the passion drives them. I’m very fortunate to be surrounded by so many people living this way. I’m grateful for the constant love & inspiration.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
I can’t imagine or remember a life without surfing in it. It is such an important and big part of my life. Surfing is a sacred thing – you get to tap into nature. It’s playful and will continually humble you. I don’t know anything that I can compare it to! But what I do know is how lucky I am to have found it.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
What brings me the most happiness is seeing my boy in the ocean. I’m so excited for him to grow up and to teach him about all I have learned in life.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
Surfers like The Malloys, John Florence, Dane Reynolds, Ryan Burch, and Alex Knost. Creative folks like Thomas Campbell, Eric Knutson, Scott Soens and Dave Homcy. Also any young person getting into every step of board building – not just shaping.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surf spot?
I would have to say my favorite go to board lately has been this 6’7” single wing swallow tailed Widowmaker. I call it my stranded island board. If I had one board to ride for the rest of my life I would choose this puppy every time. It just suits my style and keeps me excited in knee to double overhead surf. As for my favorite spot I would have to say Ala Moana Bowls. It’s just so hard to get a good one out there, but if you do it’s unforgettable. It has got to be one of the best waves in the world, from knee high nose riders to flat back square tubes.
What's your favorite meal?
My favorite meals lately have been the home cooked ones. Fresh from the garden or from our friend’s farm. I believe it’s important to source our food both locally and seasonally. We are so lucky here in Santa Cruz to be surrounded by an abundance of good food and conscious agriculture. I feel blessed that it’s super easy to get healthy fresh food here.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
I run the shuffle on my iPod all day and the mix is pretty eclectic. It bounces around from folk, jazz, roots reggae, balearic, afro, samba, old country, and many more. The top players right now are probably The Velvet Underground, Miles Davis, Hugh Mundell, Jim Sullivan “UFO”, Don Froth, Sandy’s, Talking Heads… Ha! I could go on forever. Music is a big part of my day.
What are you most grateful for?
I am deeply grateful for my little growing family and my amazing lady. Trisha and our son Arrow. They are the best! They put up with so much. It takes some special people to put up with surfboard builders and this lifestyle! I’m just lucky I found someone who likes to keep it simple and doesn’t need too much stuff to be happy.
What's next for Travis Reynolds?
Well you can find me in my shaping bay keeping the orders flowing through the shop and trying to stay focused on the growth of my business. I’m always creating new artwork. I have partnered up with the surf brand VISSLA and have been working on some exciting projects that will be coming out this year. I will hopefully continue to travel to Hawaii a couple times a year, shaping and catching up with my family and friends there. And… many more travel adventures with my family, abuilding boards and exploring new places.
To learn more about Travis Reynolds and his shapes, click here to visit his website.